March 11, 2022
By Brad Fitzpatrick
When Kimber introduced the Hunter model it was an immediate success because it offered the reliability of a controlled-feed action in a mountain-weight rifle that was priced lower than the company’s other 84 Series guns. With its sub-six-pound weight, sub-m.o.a. accuracy and a suggested retail price that barely broke into four figures, the Hunter was heralded as a heavy hitter in the light rifle market.
The Hunter is a solid gun and a great value, but its look—a combination of stainless steel metalwork and a flat dark earth composite stock—is rather plain. Some hunters like plain, others do not.
The newest member of the Hunter family, the Pro Desolve Blak, comes with a fiber-reinforced polymer stock with Desolve Blak camouflage and is anything but plain.
For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Desolve Camouflage offers a number of digital camo patterns—Blak, as well as other hunting patterns like Veil, Bare and Wing. Desolve Blak looks good with this rifle’s matte stainless finish and gives the new Kimber a modern look.
We know that looks can’t kill, but the Hunter Pro Desolve Blak’s aesthetics don’t take anything away from this rifle’s ability to perform in the field. At its heart is the Kimber 84M action, which utilizes the same controlled-round-feed design inspired by Paul Mauser and adopted by so many American hunters and rifle manufacturers. The full-length claw extractor takes a healthy bite on the rim of the cartridge and “controls” it through cycling.
Sportsmen the world over have lauded the design for over a century because it is so reliable, and there are still stalwarts for whom no rifle but those with a controlled-round feed will do when hunting dangerous game. The 84M hasn’t strayed far from Mauser’s original design, which is a good thing. Once the big extractor bites down on the rim of the case, it holds doggedly, removing stubborn brass. At the rearward point of the bolt stroke, a fixed ejector emerges through a cutout on the seven o’clock position in the bolt face and pushes the spent casing free.
Kimber manages to build its 84M actions in true Mauser fashion, but where the company has set itself apart is in the development of controlled-round-feed actions that are quite light. With its 22-inch barrel, the Pro Desolve Blak rifle I tested in .308 Win. weighed in at five pounds, seven ounces unscoped.
Winchester’s Model 70 Featherweight in the same caliber weighs more than a pound more, and saving a pound on your gun is worthwhile when you’re hunting areas with high altitude and low oxygen. The Hunter Pro Desolve Blak is considerably heavier than Kimber’s Mountain Ascent .308 (four pounds, 13 ounces), but the Hunter Pro Desolve Blak is also priced $1,250 less.
Mated to the Hunter Pro Desolve Blak’s 84M action is a 22-inch sporter-weight barrel with a satin stainless finish and a match chamber. The barrel is threaded, as is the case with many modern hunting rifles, and comes with both a thread protector and a slim contour muzzle brake. The stock is pillar-bedded, and the barrel is free-floated to improve accuracy potential.
Kimber has adopted a Model 70-type three-position wing safety for its rifles. There are many fans of this system, and I’m one of them. You can load and unload the rifle with the safety engaged, and I find clicking the safety to the middle position to be more intuitive than the bolt release button design found on Browning’s X-Bolt and Winchester’s XPR—that’s probably a result of having grown up shooting Model 70s. The bolt stop/release button is located on the rear left portion of the receiver and is large and easy to access and much better than smaller hidden bolt stops that are a chore to find and operate.
Kimber outfits the Hunter Pro Desolve Blak with a deeply curved trigger that is factory set at between 3.5 and four pounds, and my sample came in at 3.7 pounds. The trigger break is clean with no uptake or creep.
Each of these rifles comes with a detachable box magazine that holds three rounds. The magazine itself is metal, is easy to load and comes with a polymer base with the Kimber logo. Initially, the magazine gave me fits while trying to get it into the rifle, but I learned the trick: Place the rear of the magazine into position in the magazine box and then tilt the magazine up and into position. Once I figured that out, I had no problems, and there were no issues with feeding or extraction throughout testing.
The straight-comb fiber-reinforced polymer stock is trim and offers textured panels that ensure a firm grip on the gun. The stock itself is quite trim—just 1.4 inches a few inches in front of the chamber—and the base of the fore-end is rounded. The pistol grip is rather straight, which sharply contrasts with the upright design of modern hybrid tactical/hunting rifles that are so popular now.
The Kimber shoulders more like a fine shotgun than a bulky hunting rifle. There’s a one-inch recoil pad on the stock that is dense, well fit and effective. Overall length of pull on this rifle is 13.75 inches.
The Hunter Pro Desolve Blak is a good-looking rifle, but it’s also durable enough to stand up to the toughest elements. Currently, these guns are available in 6.5 Creedmoor, .280 Ackley Improved and .308 Win. Suggested retail price is $1,006, which is on par with Weatherby’s Vanguard High Country ($999) and Browning’s X-Bolt Composite ($909–$989).
The Hunter Pro Desolve Blak is designed strictly as a hunting gun, so there’s no Picatinny rail, no flat trigger, no beavertail fore-end—none of the features that have made their way from the precision shooting realm onto competing rifles. And that’s okay. The Kimber manages to keep weight low and achieve good accuracy in a hunter-friendly platform that’s as relevant and functional today as it was a decade ago. I’m a big fan of light mountain rifles, especially if they shoot as well as bigger, heavier guns.
For range testing I mounted a Leupold VX3-HD 2.5-8x36mm on the rifle. That scope is not only light but also compact enough that it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the bolt. The whole package weighs only 6.5 pounds and is compact with an overall length of 41.25 inches. That means it’s not only light to carry but also maneuverable in a blind or tree stand if you aren’t going to be hunting the high country.
Kimber promises m.o.a. accuracy out of its rifles. The Hunter Pro Desolve Blak managed that, producing a test-best three-shot group of 0.64 inch at 100 yards using Black Hills’ new 152-grain Dual Performance hunting/match bullet (see sidebar). But all three loads shot at or just over an inch, with groups ranging from 0.6 inch to 1.5 inches for three shots. The Hornady ammo proved to be the most consistent, delivering clusters of 1.09, 1.15 and 1.19 inches.
It should be noted that the Kimber has a very thin barrel, and as such it needs to cool between shots. I fired groups of three shots with at least a three-minute break between shots and a wait time of 20 minutes between groups. (This is why I always take two or three rifles to the range—though I do get some strange looks when rotating through the guns.) So before you start blasting away with these rifles, bear in mind that if you want to achieve maximum accuracy the barrel needs time to cool. Odds are you won’t have to fire a dozen rounds in a row while hunting anyway.
Though these rifles are light, the recoil they produce is quite manageable. In fact, I removed the muzzle brake and replaced it with the thread protector. There was a noticeable difference in recoil without the brake, but the kick wasn’t bad, and I prefer a bit of extra recoil to a more pronounced muzzle blast—and I think anyone you’re hunting or shooting with would, too.
Both the brake and the thread cap fit neatly on the rifle, but I do wish the thread cap was a bit more streamlined and had the same contour as the barrel. That would cost more money and would drive up the price of the rifle a bit but not a lot.
Hunters who are considering heading to the backcountry must understand there’s no chance their rifles will come back from such adventures unscathed. Rain, snow, tumbles on rocks, and myriad other factors test the durability of a gun, and that’s why it makes sense that the Kimber Hunter Pro Desolve Blak comes with stainless steel metal and a tough stock. Throughout the handling process, the gun held up well. The trigger guard itself is of one piece with the stock, and while some prefer metal parts, I have no qualms with the Kimber’s plastic trigger guard because it is durable and reduces the gun’s weight.
In addition to allowing safer loading, the three-position safety also allows a hunter to lock the bolt. I was driven nearly mad on a hunt by a two-position safety that didn’t feature a bolt lock and allowed the bolt to flop open every time it contacted brush—which was every step. A locking bolt would have solved that problem.
Reliability was, as you’d imagine, superb. I’ve never had a problem with Kimber’s controlled-round-feed design, and that didn’t change during this test. The detachable box magazine isn’t designed to be top-loaded, so plan on popping it free when you want to top off. Better yet, buy a spare mag or two and keep them in your backpack and/or pocket.
Kimber rifles have always fit me well, and this gun was no exception. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a rifle that pointed more naturally. You always hope to avoid situations where you need to take a shot at a wounded animal that’s moving or requires a snap shot. But I’ve had to take those shots, and it’s much easier to make them with a svelte gun like the Kimber than it is with a heavy, bulky tactical/hunting hybrid rifle.
Is the original Kimber Hunter a good rifle? It certainly is. Both rifles are light, accurate and affordable, but for my money, the Pro Desolve Blak wins out because I think it offers a more appealing look than its FDE-stocked counterpart. Whether you’re planning a hunt at high elevation or simply want an accurate big game rifle that doesn’t cost a lot but looks anything but cheap, the newest offering from Kimber has you covered.
Kimber Hunter Pro Desolve Blak Specifications
- Type: Controlled-round-feed bolt-action centerfire
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor, .280 Ackley Improved, .308 Win. (tested)
- Capacity: 3-round detachable box magazine
- Barrel: 22 in. sporter; threaded w/muzzle brake and thread protector
- Overall Length: 41.25 in.
- Weight: 5 lb., 7 oz.
- Stock: fiber-reinforced polymer, Desolve Blak camo
- Finish: Satin stainless
- Sights: none; drilled and tapped
- Trigger: 3.7 lb. pull (measured)
- Price: $1,006
Black Hills Dual Performance Ammo
Black Hills recently released its Dual Performance rifle ammunition. The precision-machined monolithic copper bullets are manufactured by Lehigh Defense and are designed to provide maximum expansion on impact and deep penetration.
The hollowpoint bullet is engineered to shed its front portion upon impact, creating a large wound channel and imparting massive amounts of shock. The bullet shank penetrates in a direct line when the front portion of the bullet breaks free, ensuring swift and humane kills on game.
Last year Jeff Hoffman, the owner and founder of Black Hills Ammo, took a good mule deer buck at 364 yards with the 152-grain .308 bullet I used in the accompanying review. Fragments created a large wound channel in the lungs, and the shank exited the opposite side, providing a swift, clean kill.
Lehigh says this bullet performs reliably down to 1,500 fps, which for the .308 load works out to about 600 yards. In addition to .308 these rounds are also available in .223 Rem. (62 grains), .300 BLK (115 and 198 grains) and 6.5 Creedmoor (130 grains). Visit black-hills.com for more information.